Simonstown Club History
In 1965 Muhammad Ali was Heavyweight Champion of the World, Lyndon Johnson was in the White House, Sean Lemass was Taoiseach, Martin Quinn was Meath’s full-back, Mick O’Connell was the star man for Kerry, Colm O’Rourke was in high infants over in Leitrim, and Arkle won his second Gold Cup.
Just outside of Navan, meanwhile, a group of lads, led by Joe Clarke of Simonstown and Jimmy Lane of St. Mary’s Park, were making a big decision to start a new football club. They had to get a few locals back from Kilberry and Gibbstown, there were a few ex-O’Mahony’s available and there were a few other young lads unattached and ‘mad’ for action.
There had always been a tradition of kicking ball down in Clarke’s fields in Simonstown- a suburban area of the northern side of Navan town- so the name of the new club submitted to the County Board was Simonstown Gaels G.F.C. It’s fair to say that the reaction of most County Board officials at the time was ‘where the hell is Simonstown?’
Jimmy Lane was actually a native of Trim who was at that stage residing in St.Mary’s Park, beside the Round O. He had been a member of the Meath Hurling Panel which had won the 1948 All-Ireland Junior Hurling Championship title.
Joe Clarke was a twenty something year old just eager to play football with his own team. He also had a couple of brothers who shared his enthusiasm and a Mother who was only too glad to allow goalposts be erected in a field at the back of the house.
The house and field, incidentally, were situated about a ½ mile from the Round O, out the Proudstown Rd., down a long winding cul-de-sac and, as another of the Clarke’s, Mickey, puts it so well: ‘right beside the six furlong start at Proudstown Park Racecourse’.
The affiliation was accepted and Simonstown Gaels became a reality, just one team, Junior ‘B’. The first challenge match was played in February 1965. The fledgling club had to borrow a set of jerseys from neighbouring Gibbstown for the match against the Commons from the opposite end of town.
The next challenge was against Bective, who had formed a year earlier, and for this match Mickey Clarke ‘exiled’ in Dublin at the time, arrived home with the clubs very first set of jerseys which was purchased in Elvery’s for £19-19-0.
Mrs. Clark not just satisfied with providing the pitch and the use of the shed as a dressing room made tea and scones, there might even have been jam on them for both teams!
That’s how things were in the 60s. £10 was considered a good week’s wages and £1 worth of petrol meant about 4 gallons (nobody knew anything about litres!)
Sadly both Joe Clarke and Jimmy Lane have since passed on but their respective families are still involved with the club. Mickey is currently one of our Club Presidents while Jimmy Lane’s son, Jim is the current Club Chairman. Other founding members still involved are current Club Presidents Dessie Gorman and Paddy Flood, along with Jimmy Murtagh.
For that first year of 1965, the clubs income was £42 approximately while the expenditure reached £37. Two visits to the physiotherapist would have made short work of the £7 in today’s terms, but of course physiotherapists did not figure on the Simonstown agenda in those days, nor did the hamstring or groin strains!
On the field of play the new club started with a big win over Kilmainhamwood’s second team in the 1st round of the Championship. Oliver Plunkett (not the Saint) being top scorer on the day. We went on to win our group but lost to the Commons in the quarter-final.
The Chairman of the club in that first year was Jack ‘Duck’ Callaghan who had won senior championship medals with two clubs, Parnell’s and O’Mahony’s. He won the first as far back as 1946, yet amazingly was still playing for Simonstown in the late 1960s.
Amongst the players were Benny Gartland, who was O’Mahony’s goalie when they won their first senior trophy, the Feis Cup in 1951 and Tony Sheridan, a member of the great O’Mahony’s five-in-a-row team, who had also played full-back for Meath in the 1956 Leinster Championship.
The first major playing occasion for the fledgling club arrived in 1970 when they reached the Junior ‘B’ final only to lose to neighbours O’Mahony’s whose stars veterans Tony Mc Cormack and Patsy Ratty were laden down with senior medals. Indeed, a certain Navan wag suggested Simonstown should object as O’Mahonys had ‘overage players’!
Just prior to this in 1968, the club decided to seek a more central home in order to cater better for the lads from Windtown and St.Mary’s Park. Reggie Casey who lived beside the Round O (the new road now goes through where his house used to stand) came to the rescue. He gave us the use of a field on the Proudstown Road beside Jimmy Murtagh’s house at a nominal rent of 1/=per year with entrance via a little gap. Thus was born the basics of what you now see. In the 50 years since, adjoining land has been bought from Mrs. Mullen and Kilsaran Concrete but the original field, complete with the gap, is still the foundation stone.
In 1977 an Estate down Simonstown Lane was being divided up by the Land Commission. The club applied for land for a pitch and were successful at a cost of £2400 payable in two instalments. However, there was agreement all round that Reggie’s field made more geographical sense and the club began negotiations to see would he sell. Eventually the deal was agreed at £20000 and the club, which had not yet used their own property for playing purposes, sought and were granted permission to sell it. In 1979, within two years of acquiring it, they sold it for £13000 and so they had nearly three quarters of the price of Reggie’s field.
From that day on, Simonstown Gaels G.F.C. has never looked back. Starting with the underage section, building the clubhouse, juvenile successes, acquiring more land, opening a bar, making a car park, extending the clubhouse, a crèche, all-weather playing pitch, a floodlight pitch, winning Junior and Intermiedate titles, players winning All-Ireland senior, U.21 and minor medals, the list goes on.
Today Simonstown Gaels caters for over 500 players including a very strong Ladies section. We have continued to provide state of the art playing facilities to cater for the needs of all our players including a state of the art gym. This no doubt is down to the many dedicated volunteer members over the last 50 years who have worked tiredly and diligently for the betterment of Simonstown Gaels G.F.C.
. In our 51st year we finally broke the voodoo and won our first senior championship and while we celebrate this historic win lets not forget the foresight of Jimmy Lane and Joe Clarke and while we now have elaborate arrangements for catering such as our kitchen, spare a thought for the goodwill of Mrs. Clarke with her tea and scones in the shed all those years ago.
The Executive Committee elected at the inaugural Simonstown Gaels G.F.C. A.G.M. in 1965 was as follows:
President: P.Flood Snr
Assistant Secretary: T.Markey
Treasurer and Co.Board Delegate: J.Clarke
Committee Members: J.Lane, J.Lynch, T.Clarke, T.Sheridan, R.McCullagh, P.Flood, B.Gartland, H.Brady,